While painting a portrait miniature of a family member or dear friend, memories of time spent with that person are stirred, and such was the case while painting my late granny over the past couple of weeks. I thought of our many happy times together and how much she especially loved spending the day shopping with my mom and me! She’d usually purchase only one really nice dress or outfit, and remind us of the importance of quality over quantity.
The sketch is done first, then carefully outlined by brush with light flesh colors, before erasing all pencil lines.
Grannie’s life was certainly not an easy one. Born in Wright, FL in 1914, she endured numerous stressful world events, such as WWI and WWII, Spanish influenza, the Great Depression, when my grandpa hoboed trying to make enough money to keep them going, the polio epidemic, and both the Korean and Vietnam wars. She started working at age 5 while going to school, and her job was emptying the “slop jars” every morning at the hotel/ boarding house where her mother worked in Stuart, FL. It’s hard to imagine a 5-year-old girl having to do that as a job isn’t it? Then in 6th grade, she had to quit school to work since she didn’t have the money to buy her books, and at 14, she married my grandpa. She later lost a 2-month-old son to pneumonia, a daughter to diphtheria, and delivered a stillborn baby. She had 4 other children who grew into adulthood, with my aunt becoming deaf at age 4, after contracting whooping cough.
Next, a light flesh-colored wash was laid on, as well as the pink of her shirt and basic shapes in her hair.
One would never know the heartaches she had endured in her life though, as she always kept her chin up and wore a smile on her beautiful face! She was a hard worker and an intelligent lady, ahead of her times in many ways. Involved with her church and community, she was always volunteering and worked with the election polls, stressing the importance of practicing our right to vote. She was very instrumental in founding both Cedar Grove Elementary and Cedar Grove Baptist Church, where she taught the ladies Sunday school for 38 years! Granny also worked directing school lunchrooms and worked her way up to manager, being sent to 3 different schools to direct their lunch programs over time, until taking over at the new high school.
Then her facial structure was built and shaped by gradually stippling darker colors and values. I also added a green-wash for the background.
Moreover, she was an exceptional seamstress and wonderful cook, who’s pantry shelves were always lined with canned veggies and fruit from their big garden. She was truly a remarkable lady and looking back now, I greatly regret not asking her to share more about her life and the great wisdom she had to pass on. So many times we don’t realize what we’ve missed out on in life, until it’s gone, and thus too late. She loved her family and loved for me to send her information when I had won awards on my paintings, as she loved submitting it as a press release to her local newspaper.
At this point, I decided to change the background to blue and lavender tones and kept adding detail to the face, hair, glasses, shirt as well as the strand of pearls.
I know she would be absolutely delighted with my membership and participation with the American Women Artists group, and the things that this group is accomplishing in the art world for women artists. I would also hope that she would both love and approve of her portrait miniature . . . but I’m pretty sure she would be.
When finished, I carefully cut the portrait out, which was quite scary, so that I could place it into the gold oval frame.
~ See our miniature paintings in these shows this week ~